The Case of the Circle-Saw Shark (or, the palaeontologists vs. the softies part I)

The Case of the Circle-Saw Shark (or, the palaeontologists vs. the softies part I)

One of the central problems of palaeontology is that hard parts of organisms are often very well preserved, soft parts not so well. Thus, shells and bones are common in the fossil record; skin, muscles and other soft tissues are not. Shark teeth, for instance, are really common. They’re very hard, and sharks continuously replace their teeth during their lives, so the fossil record is littered with them. Unfortunately, shark skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. Cartilage does not fossilise wel, so the great, great majority of shark fossils are nothing but teeth. Continue reading “The Case of the Circle-Saw Shark (or, the palaeontologists vs. the softies part I)”

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Curious Critters – The Ghost Crab

Curious Critters – The Ghost Crab

When Dutch naturalists made a stop at the Cocos islands on their way to Indonesia in 1820, they were struck by the cleanliness of the beaches. Usually, the beach is a great place to find remains of all sorts of washed up marine life – mussels, seaweed, fishes, etc. – but on the Cocos islands they could barely find anything. A little patient observation provided the explanation for this odd state of affairs: these islands are very rich in crabs, and crabs like to keep their front yard tidy. None more so than the adorable ghost crabs. Continue reading “Curious Critters – The Ghost Crab”